In the heart of Tirunelveli, a culinary love affair with alva, sothi kulambu, and avial has flourished among locals. The distinctive taste that characterizes these dishes is often attributed to the sacred waters of the Tamiraparani river. Among these delectable offerings, Sothi Kulambu, a hallmark of paddy cultivation, takes center stage every Thursday at the renowned Meenakshi Canteen, a culinary institution with a legacy spanning four decades in Khulambusindupoonthurai.
Saraswati, the younger sister of the canteen’s owner, unravels the mystery behind Sothi Kulambu, stating, “Sothi refers to a vegetable mixture cooked with coconut milk. The concoction goes by different names in the districts where it is prepared. However, the Sothi Kulambu made in the paddy-rich region holds a unique taste attributed to the Tamiraparani water.”
This traditional broth carries a subtle sweetness that not only tantalizes the taste buds but also aids digestion. Served alongside ginger paste, Sothi Kulambu is not just a culinary delight but is considered a medicinal elixir for the body. The preparation involves an array of vegetables, including alfalfa, cumin, drumstick, beans, and carrots. The process begins with grinding coconut to extract thick coconut milk, followed by a sauté of vegetables in oil with the addition of small onions.
Saraswati provides insights into the meticulous preparation, “To make Sothi Kulambu, grind coconut and extract thick coconut milk without adding water. Then, grind it with water and add coconut milk. Next, add the vegetables to the coconut milk, sauté lightly in oil, add small onions, and let it boil. After the vegetables are cooked, grind the chilies and cumin seeds and add them to the mixture. Add the required amount of salt and let it boil.”
The final touch involves a tempering process where mustard, gram flour, curry leaves, and other aromatic spices are added to enhance the flavors. Saraswati concludes, “This porridge is not just a dish; it’s a tradition deeply rooted in the paddy fields. It holds a special place in the homes and celebratory occasions of the people.”
So, the next time you savor the unique taste of Sothi Kulambu in Tirunelveli, remember it’s not just a culinary delight; it’s a harmonious blend of tradition, local produce, and the sacred essence of Tamiraparani water.